With autumn upon us, most gardeners are spending the last of the warm days tidying and preparing their garden for winter. This is the time that some plants and shrubs are pruned, bulbs are planted and other flowers are coaxed into slumber. With planning and the right treatment, these plants will spring back into life with the warmth of spring sunshine, becoming something for you to admire from your garden bench.
Tip 1 – Give a Little Back
The soil has worked hard from spring until summer, and you are expecting it to cosset and protect tubers, bulbs and root systems over the winter. Like us, soil needs the right nutrients for plants and shrubs to thrive.
Plants and shrubs consume different nutrients and minerals from the soil, and this is why gardeners and farmer rotate their crops each year. This isn’t always possible with some shrubs that would not appreciate an annual relocation!
This means that as well as feeding plants throughout their growing season, you also need to pack the nutrients back in the soil. Doing this in autumn helps the soil stay fertile and rich over the winter months. Come spring, your shrubs, flowers and trees will blossom once again – and with vigour.
Add well-rotted ‘organic matter’ (such as horse manure or homemade leaf mulch or compost) into the soil. Dig it in well. Some plants appreciate a layer of mulch or similar around their base. As it rains over winter, the goodness will seep into the soil beneath – your plants will thank you in spring with a glorious display of blooms and leaves.
Tip 2 – Plant Bulbs
Come autumn, the local plant nurseries and hardware stores are full of diverse bulbs. The reason is simple – now is the time to plant bulbs in pots and borders, ready for an early showing in spring.
It can take some time to plant bulbs, depending on the amount that you have to plant, so this is a project best undertaken over a few days. Here are some lovely late winter and spring bulbs:
- Snowdrops – Who doesn’t love the delicate white nodding head of the snowdrop? A late winter flower, you should plant bulbs around teak benches for a pretty show, even if there is ice and snow on the ground.
- Crocus – These purple, yellow, white and orange flowers are a sign that spring is on its way and that the soil is beginning to warm. Like snowdrops, plant in clusters in lawns, pots and borders.
- Daffodil – If ever there was a sign that spring has sprung, it is the sight and scent of the yellow trumpet of the daffodil. There are many varieties, so mix them up in the lawn, borders and pots for a stunning spring display. Don’t forget, leave them in situ and have double the flowers the following year.
- Tulip – Tulips are stunning flowers available in all kinds of colours, including ‘limited edition’ colours such as black and deep purple. They are not ‘friendly’ with daffodils, so keep them away from each other and in separate pots. Plant in clusters or in rows and these flowers will poke through ground covering plants.
- Cyclamens – These are a deceptively hardy winter flower. Available in red, white or pink, plant the small tuber-like bulbs and watch them spread year on year. They work well in pots, but are also perfect for shady areas, as well as border and the lawn.
Tip 3 – Welcome Wildlife
All too often, we manicure and landscape garden to within a fraction of perfection, but this can happen to the detriment of wildlife.
Gardeners are now being actively encouraged to give over a portion of their garden for a meadow. As well as scattering seeds of native flowers, gardeners are also being encouraged to allow some weeds to grow. Everything from dandelions to nettles – they can all have a place in the garden.
From birds to bugs and small animals such as hedgehogs, the more wildlife you have in your garden, the better. So why not leave some of your empty garden pots on their sides in a quiet corner of the garden covered in leaves and sticks, making a perfect winter hibernating hotel for hedgehogs and other wildlife?
Tip 4 – Clean and Store Garden Furniture and Benches
With the chill of autumn upon us, the thought of spending time sitting on a garden bench enjoying the garden might not be at the forefront of our minds. Winter will soon get its claws into the garden, which means that come spring, we have to clean off detritus and debris from our teak benches before we can enjoy the sunshine.
Instead, take time while the sun still has some warmth in it to perform some basic garden maintenance jobs before autumn ends– you will be glad you did once winter has passed and spring arrives!
- Wash garden furniture – In addition to teak benches, dining sets (both wood and metal) will appreciate a good wash to remove the dust and grime of summer use. But this is the important bit – there is still heat in the sun to dry them naturally before they are tidied and stored away for winter.
- Varnish / paint / oil – This is a maintenance job that could be done in early spring, if the spring weather is kind. But if the autumn is shaping up to be an Indian summer, then take out the paint brush and apply thin coats of paint to garden furniture or Danish oil to teak benches and furniture. Again, the trick is to allow the varnish, stain, oil to set in good weather.
- Cover everything that needs covering – Waterproof protective covers are a wise investment, even though they cost a few pounds. They can protect everything from garden benches to sun loungers from the ravages of the winter weather. Come spring, all you need to do is whip off the cover and take your seat in the blossoming spring garden!
These four tips will help your garden over winter, allowing it to burst into life in the spring.